THONGA CLASSIC TRAIL
Bring the Gees! 55km of unique trails starts at the Kosi lake system by the Mozambiquan border, down the untouched beaches, up through the indigenous coastal forest before an ocean safari takes you to out to our warm temperate ocean see dolphins, coral reefs at Sodwana Bay. This trail is for those who enjoy trails, adventure, exploring pristine natural areas & exploring. We hike around 15km each day.
We have bent over backwards to try and bring you a cost effective, value added package that includes the transfer from Sodwana Bay to Kosi Bay, all local guides, 4 nights accommodation, all meals prepared locally and overseen by our chef with Michelin restaurant experience, dive mask & snorkel, 2 nights of turtle walks (in season) and all your booze & drinks included.
DAY 1: SODWANA BAY - KOSI LAKE
DISTANCE: 3km / 6km
We meet at Sodwana Bay around lunch time where you will leave your car safely parked on a private property. From there we transfer you the 100km up the R22 to just short of the Mozambican border to where the trail begins.
The first afternoon you will arrive at our hidden forest gem, a new development for 2023 that were excited only adds onto the experience. A beautiful, isolated gem surrounded by nature your spacious tented accommodation for 2 sharing each has a a generous amount of space in large clearings in the bush. We have revamped the ablution block in Summer 2022 as the camp soft opens for turtle walkers before we resume our trails come January 2023. Its tucked between the lake and the beach and allows us immediate access to walk the beaches and look for turtles in Summer. Our head guide is there to take you on a guided bird walk this first afternoon, or perhaps just sip a GnT on the custom made raffia palm boats on the lake edge while we welcome you with sundowner drinks and a general briefing about the coming days.
The first evening is spent in the warm company of Sizakala Turtle Camp nestled in stunning coastal bush, awash with birds & next to the 3rd Kosi lake. It's owned by the Mtenjwa family for the past 20 years and BongiNkosi will be there to welcome you. You will feel right at home in this rustic camp with warm campfires and comfortable tented accommodation for two, because we are so close to the Mozambican border we feel that the first evenings fare should honour our northern neighbours!
DAY 2: KOSI BAY - BHANGA NEK
DISTANCE: 5KM / 10KM / 15KM
We wake nice and early and after a light breakfast of tea, coffee, fruit, yogurt & cereal you take a snacks along with you as you begin the trail heading up the 3rd lake edge, walking through the indigenous forest. The secret trail (even we got lost a few times initially) meanders north along the lake edge for 5km keeping an eye out for Banded Mongoose, Samango Monkeys, Red Duiker and a variety of bird life before heading up the dune to the top of Nkovokeni, the mighty dune which keeps the Indian Ocean apart from Nhlange, also known as 3rd lake.
From here you look down on the Kosi crown jewels, take the views in have a rest before we descend down to the lake edge to explore the fish traps, mangroves, piscivorous birds abound, hippos & flamingos.
The trail heads up to the East of eNkovukeni, the mighty dune which keeps the Indian Ocean apart from Nhlange, also known as 3rd lake. The views over the lake system are stunning from up here, this section will make the legs burn a bit before we drop down back into the cover and thick bush as we walk up the lake shore for the final 5km keeping an eye out for Banded Mongoose, Samango Monkeys, Red Duiker and a variety of bird life.
The Kosi estuary fish traps are unique to this area in that the local people have used these passive capture fish traps for hundreds of years, each fish trap/ kraal being handed down within the family for generations. One of our local guides will be present to explain how the hydraulics and lake system works. There is also the option to snorkel the “Aquarium” at the mouth to look for money cowries & the highly camouflaged stonefish in the shallows if you’re feeling adventurous!
A boat will collect you at either 2nd or 1st lake depending on your choice. You get a chance to explore the lake system, have a swim or a snorkel in the mangroves here abundant with life, see the hippos and resident flamingos before we make our way through the picturesque channels back to 3rd & largest lake, Nhlange. In summer, we suggest taking the boat back to camp which will drop you right on your doorstep, to save you energy for the evenings turtle walk! This is one of the most unique campsites in SA and in turtle central, right on the edge of the beach. There is no electricity but we will prepare a fine meal for you, hot showers are provided in clean ablution facilities. Accommodation is in shared tented bungalows.
Alternatively if you choose to rather explore the Jurassic Raffia groves we need to go all the way to the dark waters of 4th lake, Amanzimnyama. The unique forest contains huge palms, considered the largest palms in the world & this particular species of raffia palm occurs only between Kosi Bay and 40 km north of Maputo, growing as high as 16 metres with the longest compound pinnate leaves (some are 25 metres in length) in the plant kingdom.
In Summer, the turtle guides will then take you on an unforgettable 3.5 hour walk starting at dusk along the beach to look for prehistoric Leatherback & Loggerhead Turtles. The females make their way onto the beaches here to lay their eggs in the Summer months and the hatchlings start to appear from January to April. This is a truly unforgetable experience!
DAY 3: BHANGA NEK - BLACK ROCK
DISTANCE: 15 KM
We start nice and early to beat the heat in the turtle season (the eggs use the same heat from the sun to incubate the eggs under the sand). This is arguably the most pristine stretch of coastline in the whole country, completely undeveloped and untouched.
We move through a series of bays, sculpted out by the prevailing NE winds passing Rabbit Rock, Castle Rock, Dog Point then reaching Black Rock 15km down the beach. Here a delicious informal lunch awaits you and the afternoon is yours to relax or explore the turquoise waters. You can swim, snorkel or go onto the top of Black Rock view point and look for Humpback Whales, Green and Hawksbill turtles feeding off the ledges or maybe catch the Bottlenose dolphins cruising past for a casual surf in the backline. This stretch of coastline has a high abundance of Palm Nut vultures and they are often spotted flying the beaches here.
We will spend some time looking for the Bouton’s Snake eyed Skink, it's a small lizard that has a local South African population endemic only to Black Rock. The small skink occurs further north but this is the southernmost limit of its range and the population is thought to consist of around 58 individuals which feed exclusively in the inter-tidal zone. The Beach Medlar tree/ shrub is another plant which also only occurs at Black Rock in South Africa.
Once you are sufficiently beached out we take you slightly inland by vehicle to our third overnight venue of Hlabasimhlope Monument and Heritage site. This memorable overnight stay is the brain child of Eugene Tembe who is a Community leader and resident of KwaMpukane Community and is part of the Royal Tembe clan.
His warm hospitality will make you feel right at home in this Zulu-cool residence, rooms are twin-shared as are the ablutions with open air showers looking out over the rolling hills. There is a cash bar with wood-fired oven pizzas and shisa-nyama and accompanying sides will fill your belly before a good evenings rest.
DAY 4: BLACK ROCK - MABIBI
DISTANCE: 13 KM
An early start with a light breakfast we begin the walk at Lala Nek through the coastal forest at Manzengwenya aka Island Rock. We follow the coastal twee-spoor track south through dense coastal bush for 6km with plenty of endemic birds, Vervet Monkeys and Red Duiker along the way.
We weave in and out of the forest and onto the beach at Island Rock where gourmet sandwiches await and a last swim in the Ocean before we whisk you away to South Africas largest fresh water Lake, Lake Sibaya. Enjoy unforgettable sundowners on us and rinse the salt off in one of the most underrated and beautiful parts of South Africa.
We return to Sodwana Bay to an exclusive private lodge for a final dinner of elegant surprises freshly prepared by Damien, accompanied by wine and champagne.
DAY 5: MABIBI - SODWANA BAY
DISTANCE: 14 SEA MILES
No trip to Thonga land would be complete without the ultimate sea safari. Sodwana Bay has 30% more fish bio-diversity than the entire Caribbean Sea combined. The deep canyons offshore are home to the Coelacanth and these same canyons cause cold nutrient rich upwellings which feed the worlds southernmost Coral Reefs. If you dive already and would like to stay on to do a few dives after the trail we can arrange this.
After you wake and having eaten a light breakfast, we will depart with a boat from Sodwana Bay. From here we launch through the surf to begin the unforgettable trip along the coast, running behind backline with the tall vegetated dunes standing sentry over the ancient coastline. Its a fantastic perspective from the sea to look back at the very coastline you have been exploring over the past few days, and water visibility on this stretch of coastline can sustain 30m for days on end, primarily due to the lack of rivers pouring into the ocean.
You can expect to see Bottlenose dolphins all year around, Humpback Whales on their annual migration, first heading north to calve around June before returning with the youngsters around September, Whale Sharks are possible to see all year around although uncommon these days & gestating Ragged tooth sharks are around in Summer. The boat will drop you to snorkel at Breaking waters at 9 Mile reef where the reef shallows up to just a few meters below the surface, Hawksbill turtles, Potato Bass, Moorish Idols & Giant Trevally all abound here and you’ll lay your eyes on just a few of the 1300 species of fish that call the Thongaland coast their home.
We drop you on the Sodwana beach at 11-ish and will get you back to your vehicle. After a quick shower, embraces from new that friends we shared an incredible journey with, we embark on our respective sojourns home.
Who can show you a dolphin or whale in the morning, a hippo in the afternoon and a laying turtle in the evening?
At Thonga Trails, we can ...
Special interests? Check out our different options or tell us your idea!
We set you off on the classic Thonga trail, however you are accompanied by a local guide along with a birding specialist. We appreciate you have to move slower so instead of covering the entire 55km of trails we slow it down to send more time searching for those feathered friends. Possible birds include the Green Coucal, Woodwards Batis, Green Twinspot, Rosy throated Longclaw, Narina Trogon, Starred Robin, Livingston's Turaco, Ospreys, Palm Nut Vultures, Lesser Flamingos & African Broadbill.
For the salty surfer. We know what you need... 4 Nights accommodation, all meals, snack packs & beers. We also include the ultimate boat surfari on the way home dropping you o your peak of choice! No-one knows this coast like we do. There are 4 secret points that cook on different swells not to mention the beach breaks in between, oh yeah, and its all to yourself.
We are surfers, we know know that we want to it to be flexible, so contact us and we will tailor make your trip.
All the small things
With all the benefits of the Classic Trail but we find a naturalist that suits your groups needs to add a wealth of experience and added value to your trip.
The best way is to contact us so we can find the right guide for your group.
Or simply just want to extend your stay on our coastline and spend some time in Sodwana Bay? We can definitely help you out with that!